Deuteronomy 34

 

 

DEATH, BURIAL, AND ENCOMIUM OF MOSES (vs. 1-12)

 

After blessing the people, Moses, in obedience to the Divine command, ascended

Mount Nebo, the highest peak of the Pisgah range, and thence surveyed the whole

land of Canaan, from north to south, and from east to west, as well as the district

on the east of the Jordan, not included in Canaan proper.

 

1 “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo,

to the top of Pisgah,” - rather, unto Mount Nebo, the summit of Pisgah - “that is

over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto

Dan,” -  Not Dan Laish, near the central source of the Jordan, which was not in

Gilead, but another Dan in Northern Perea, the site of which has not yet been

discovered (compare Genesis 14:14).

 

2 “And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all

the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,” - rather, the hinder sea, viz. the

Mediterranean (compare ch. 11:24).  3 And the south,” -  the Negeb, the

pasture-land in the south, towards the Arabian desert - “and the plain of the

valley of Jericho,” - the extensive plain through which the Jordan flows,

extending from Jericho to Zoar, at the south end of the Dead Sea. This

wide prospect could not be surveyed by any ordinary power of vision; so

that Moses must for the occasion have had his power of vision

miraculously increased. There is no ground for supposing that he saw the

scene in an ecstatic vision, and not with his bodily eyes -  “the city of

palm trees, unto Zoar.  4 And the LORD said unto him, This is the land

which I swear unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will

give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou

shalt not go over thither.”

 

5 “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab,

according to the word of the LORD.” - literally, at the mouth of

the Lord. The rabbins interpret this, “by a kiss of the Lord” (‘Baba Bathra,’

17 a); i.e. as Maimonides explains it (‘More Nevoch.,’ 3:51), Moses “died

in a moment of holiest joy in the knowledge and love of God.” The phrase,

however, simply means “by or according to the command of” (compare

Genesis 45:21; Exodus 17:1; Leviticus 24:12; Numbers 3:16).

 

6 “And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against

Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”

The valley in which God is supposed to have buried Moses was probably

some depression on the Pisgah range, upon or close by Nebo. The rabbins say

that Moses was buried by retiring into a cavern, where he died and where

his body remained. It is probable that, like Enoch and Elijah, he

was transferred to the invisible world without seeing corruption. Hence his

appearance along with Elijah in bodily form on the Mount of the

Transfiguration; and hence also, perhaps, the tradition of the contest for

the body of Moses between Michael and Satan (Jude 9). If the body of

Moses was actually buried, the concealment of his grave so that no man

knew of it may be justly regarded as the first instance on record of the

providential obliteration, so remarkably exemplified afterwards in the

gospel history, of the ‘ holy places’ of Palestine; the providential safeguard

against their elevation to a sanctity which might endanger the real holiness

of the history and religion which they served to commemorate.  The reverence

which the Jews paid to graves shows that there was no small danger of their

coming under a superstitious regard to that of Moses had it been known.

 

7  And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his

eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”  Though Moses had reached

the age of a hundred and twenty years, his eye had not become dim, nor were

the juices of his body dried.  Natural force. The word so rendered (j"le) occurs

only here; but it is doubtless the substantive  connected with the adjective  jl"

moist, fresh (compare Genesis 30:37; Numbers 6:3), and properly means

moisture, freshness. It is used here of the natural juices of the body.

 

8 “And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab

thirty days:” -  The people mourned for Moses thirty days, as they did for

Aaron (Numbers 20:29) - “so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses

were ended.”

 

9 “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for

Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel

hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.”

 

 

The Last Journey of Moses (vs. 1-9)

 

(For other aspects of the death of Moses, “Death Immediately in View” -

ch. 32:48-52.) We have come at last to the closing scene. It is evidently

recorded by other hands; for “Dan” (v. 2) did not exist by that name till a

much later period (See Judges 18:1, 27-29).  Vs. 10-12 indicate, moreover, a

period later still; very possibly, it may have been as far on as the time of Ezra

when those verses were added. And whoever will make use of the formula, —

early authorship,  late editorship,” as applicable to the Book of Deuteronomy,

will have in his hands a key which will enable him to unlock many of the intricacies

with which unbelieving writers seek to worry us. In all probability there was an

ample supply of men in the later schools of the prophets who would be quite

equal to editorial work; and most assuredly, Ezra would not be lacking in fitness

for such service.  By whomsoever written, this closing chapter is a fitting

appendix to the words of the lawgiver himself.

 

  • MOSES HAS TO TAKE A REMARKABLE JOURNEY. (vs. 1,5)

He has to go up and die. In one sense this is true of us all. We are all on a

pilgrimage, at the close of which, on its earthly side, there must be the act

of dying. But in two respects there is a notable element in the journey of

the aged lawgiver: in one of these it was unique.

 

Ř      His act of dying was, as much as his acts in life, one of conscious

and intentional obedience to the will of God. He knew that he

held his life absolutely at the disposal of another, and he would not,

if he could, have prolonged it beyond its appointed time. In this

respect believers now are in full sympathy and accord with him.

For them to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21).  Their supreme desire

is that Christ may be magnified in their body, whether by life or

by death (Ibid. v. 20).  They desire to honor their Savior in their

dying as well as in their living work. “Whether they live they live

unto the Lord; and whether they die they die unto the Lord;

whether they live therefore or die, they are the Lord’s.”

(Romans 14:8)

 

Ř      Moses, however, takes a journey, knowing just when and where he

should die. It is not easy for us to enter into his feelings then. (No

doubt Aaron [ch. ] and Abraham in the matter of the offering of

Isaac, [Genesis 22:1-14] could fully

sympathize with him – CY – 2012)  The

time and place of our death are entirely unknown to us. How could

we bear it if it were otherwise? Or if we could, how could our fondest

ones on earth? We are often glad to throw ourselves anew on God,

 in thankfulness at the uncertainty which shrouds the future.

We cheerfully say:

 

“Lord, it belongs not to our care

        Whether we die or live.”

 

But what a pall would seem to be thrown over the home, if it

were disclosed when we should be called away! The holier and

more beautiful the life, the more painful would the thought of

parting with it be.

 

  • BEFORE MOSES DEPARTS, VISIONS OF GLORY ARE

VOUCHSAFED.  (v. 2.) “The Lord showed him all the land.” The vision

was in part physical, but that which faith beheld in the glorious future

which was assured to the people of God, was by far the most precious

part of the sight — incomparably so. Thus the Lord was merciful to Moses,

in that, though his joy in death was checked by the sense of his own defect

and failures, he would, on the other hand, be borne up by the thought that

GOD HAD NEVER FAILED AND NEVER WOULD!  The future, from

which he was cut off, would assuredly develop gloriously under the care

and grace of Israel’s covenant God. Even so, when God’s heroes sink in

death, they know that, though they die, GOD’S CHURCH WILL LIVE

ON and that the promised inheritance will yet be theirs. And many, many

a believer has had a vision, in death, akin to that of Stephen, (Acts 7:55-56)

and, though appalled at his own shortcomings, has been borne up by a sight

of Jesus, as “mighty to save,” and as the Captain of salvation, who will

bring the Church onward to the FULLNESS OF REDEMPTION!

 

  • WHEN THESE DEATH-SCENES ARE WITNESSED THE SOUL

WILL BE ABSOLUTELY ALONE WITH GOD. Moses lay himself

down to die, without any attendant by his side. However many there

might have been around, between himself and God no one could possibly

come. He must die alone; so must we. Alone must we pass through “death’s

iron gate,” save as we can use the words “Yea, though I walk through

the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:  for thou art with

me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). There is but

ONE whose real presence can comfort us then.

 

  • THE BODIES OF GOD’S SAINTS ARE NOT OVERLOOKED BY

HIM. (v. 6.) “The Lord buried him,” says the editor, “and no man

knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.” Some have assigned it as a reason

for the concealment of the body of Moses, “that his tomb might not

become the occasion of idolatry or superstition.” Others, rejecting this as

inconsistent with the known fact that in the eye of the Hebrews every dead

body was unclean, have sought for a reason by comparing Jude 9 with

Matthew 17. They deem it not improbable that there might be some change

in the body of Moses in death, which would account for his appearing in

the Transfiguration scene with another, who was taken up to heaven

without dying, and also for the mysterious conflict over the body, of

which Jude informs us. This may have been, but we can go no further than

the text takes us by the hand. It suffices to know that God oared for Moses’

body as well as for him. The body of believers is now the temple of the

Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 6:19).  Christ is “the Savior of the body”

(Ephesians 5:23).  The Spirit who dwells in us will quicken the mortal

body at the resurrection.

 

  • THE WORK WHICH MOSES HAS DONE IS ONE WHICH WILL

FIND NO PARALLEL TO IT. (v. 10.) (See next Homily.) Every

worker for God has his own distinctive work, which only he can do.

 

  • GOD HAS ALREADY RAISED UP ONE TO CARRY ON THE

WORK OF MOSES, SO THAT IT WILL NOT FALL TO PIECES

WHEN HE DIES. (v. 9.) Joshua is ready. So that there are no chasms in

the service.

 

  • THE INCOMPLETENESS OF MOSES’ WORK IS NOT ONLY A

HISTORICAL BUT A SYMBOLIC FACT. It is not a lawgiver alone

who can had the Church on to Canaan, but a Joshua — Jesus, a Savior.

“The Law was given by Moses, but [the] grace and [the] truth came by

Jesus Christ.” Moses had propounded truth in his legislative precept and

teachings. He had taught God’s grace in the institutions of sacrifice, and in

the ordinances of worship, prayer, and praise. But the truth he disclosed,

the grace he declared, were brought in by another, long ages after, for

whose work he was intended to prepare the way. “The Law was a child-

guideuntil Christ.” (                       ) Happy are they whose life-work is

in harmony with the plan of Him who seeth the end from the beginning!

Happy they, whether in more prominent or more obscure positions, who

are in their Lord’s own appointed way workers together with Him!

 

10 “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom

the LORD knew face to face,” -   “For the Lord was revealed to him face to

face” (Onkelos) - (Compare Exodus 33:11) - The knowledge here referred to

was not merely that cognizance which God as the Omniscient has of all men,

but that special knowledge by which men, being known of God, are made to

know Him (compare I Corinthians 8:3). The statement in this verse could only

have been inserted some time after the death of Moses, and after the people

had had manifestations of God’s presence with them, both by communications

from Him through the prophets and by the successes which He had given them

over their enemies. But it is not necessary to suppose that a long period during

which a lengthened succession of prophets had arisen had elapsed. “Moses was

the founder and mediator of the old covenant. As long as this covenant was to

last, no prophet could arise in Israel like unto Moses. There is but ONE who is

worthy of greater honor than Moses, namely, the Apostle and High Priest

of our profession, who is placed as a Son over all the house of God, in

which Moses was found faithful as a servant (compare Hebrews 3:2-6 with

Numbers 12:7), JESUS CHRIST, THE FOUNDER AND MEDIATOR OF

THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT!

 

11 In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do

in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all

his land,  12 And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror

which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.”

 

 

The Distinctive Greatness of Moses (vs. 10-12)

 

These closing verses do not touch upon the character of Moses, but upon his unique

position as a prophet. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,”

(v. 10). This does not exactly ascribe inferiority, but rather dissimilarity to all who had

followed, up to the date of this editorial postscript. “Nothing can have two beginnings;”

and in this lies the one and sufficient reason why Moses could not be followed in the

after ages by any one who took a like position with his own. Purposely avoiding

any outline of the character of Moses, we propose to enumerate a few of those features

in which the work of Moses was altogether unique, and ever must so remain.

 

  • MOSES WAS THE FIRST TO DISCLOSE THE GLORIOUS NATURE

OF GOD AND HIS GRACIOUS RELATIONSHIPS TO OUR RACE,

AS THE CORNER-STONE OF A GREAT COMMONWEALTH.

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM, BY HIS SACRIFICIAL

INSTITUTES AND TEACHINGS, THE ONE PRINCIPLE THAT

“WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION.” Sacrifice

was adopted in other nations as a human expedient for appeasing Divine

wrath; Moses declares it to be a Divine appointment for the

acknowledgment of human sin and of the Divine holiness.

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE ELEMENTARY

PRINCIPLES AND THE TRUE BASIS OF THE NOBLEST HUMAN

ETHICS “BE YE HOLY; FOR I AM HOLY.”

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST TO REQUIRE OF A PEOPLE LOVE TO

GOD AS THE SPRING OF ALL OBEDIENCE, AND TO ASSIGN AS

THE REASON FOR THEIR LOVE THE CARE OF GOD TO THEM.

(ch.5:6; 6:5)

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST, YEA, THE ONLY ONE IN ALL HISTORY,

TO DEMAND OF A TYRANT THE LIBERATION OF AN

OPPRESSED PEOPLE, AND TO FORM THEM INTO A NEW

COMMONWEALTH, WITH THE AVOWED AIM AND PURPOSE OF

PLANTING IN THE WORLD A NEW RELIGIOUS FAITH AND LIFE.

(ch. 7:1-11; 9:1-6.)

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST WHO MADE PROVISION FOR THE

EDUCATION OF A WHOLE PEOPLE IN THE THINGS OF GOD;

WITH VIRTUE AND PIETY FOR ITS LESSONS, AND THE HOME

FOR ITS TRAINING-SCHOOL. (ch. 6:1-9; 10:12-22; 11:18-21; 31:12-13)

 

  • HE WAS THE FIRST WHO AIMED AT EDUCATING A

PEOPLE TO SELF-GOVERNMENT. They were to choose their own

officers, judges, and magistrates, according to principles of righteousness.

And (as we have shown in loc.) even the government of Jehovah was not

forced upon them. Their consent was asked again and again; and their

solemn, loud “Amen” was required, confirming the sentence of God as if it

were their own. Thus from the first the people were made “workers

together with God.”

 

Others might follow on in all these respects, but no one else ever could be like Moses in

starting all this new national life, thought, and virtue, in organized form. And yet how

much more than one like Moses do we need for a world’s regeneration and a

Church’s education!”  If there had been a Law given which should have given life,

 verily righteousness should have been by the Law” (Galatians 3:21).  But “what the

 Law could not do,” God has done through  our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:3).

Moses can give rules. ONLY THE LORDTHE SPIRIT CAN GIVE LIFE!

A Greater than Moses has come, and has created by his power a new commonwealth,

whose poli>teuma politeumacitizenship - is in the heavens. In this “new

Jerusalem, which cometh down from God out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2),

lo! “all things are made new” (II Peter 3:13).

 

 

 

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